Warwickshire Freemasons have been busy over the past months fundraising to present a £10,000 donation to the 2nd Warwick Sea Scouts
On 13 December 2018, the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, in his capacity as President of the Scout Association, formally opened the new jetties at the Headquarters of the 2nd Warwick Sea Scouts in St Nicholas Park, Warwick, on the River Avon.
On a chilly but sunny day, the jetties were opened with all due pomp and ceremony and afterwards, the Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire Freemasons David Macey presented a cheque for £1,000 to Janette Eslick, New HQ Fundraiser, towards the next phase of the ‘Building a Future’ project.
This event inspired local Freemasons Steven Price and Peter Round from Alderson House to go to new lengths to support such a valuable and valued organisation in the local community. Steve had long wanted to establish a community fund at Alderson House to support local charities and enhance their profile in the community. This seemed the ideal opportunity to do so.
They agreed a nominal target of raising £2,000 for the Sea Scouts and the Province of Warwickshire agreed to match whatever was raised. The Provincial Grand Master also undertook to take the project to London in the hope that the United Grand Lodge of England would match fund and make the donation really worthwhile.
In the past six months, the Freemasons at Alderson House raised just short of £3,200 and as promised the Provincial Grand Master took it to London and they agreed match funding. Finally, the Province of Warwickshire not only match funded the total but enhanced it to a round £10,000.
The cheque for £10,000 was presented to the Sea Scouts by David Macey, at Alderson House on 22 of September where it was received with very grateful thanks.
From the Grand Secretary
I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the new Masonic season. September marks the start of my third year in post, and how time flies when you’re busy! UGLE thankfully quietens down in August, giving staff and the Organisation time to take stock of what we have achieved over the last year, and where we want the next 12-18 months to take us.
Undoubtedly one of the major highlights this year was the dedication of a memorial stone to those, our members, awarded the Victoria Cross. The Most Worshipful Grand Master commented that, having served in the armed forces for more than 20 years, he understood the common values shared by Freemasonry and the services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition. It is an extraordinary fact that 14 per cent of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons and we were proud to be able to recognise and celebrate this at Freemasons’ Hall in London. Perhaps we should be mindful of that part of our ritual, delivered on the presentation of a Hall Stone Jewel to a new Worshipful Master, which tells us that it should ‘ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self’.
Freemasons’ Hall was, of course, built as a peace memorial to those brethren who lost their lives in the Great War and we have been thinking hard about how we can use our fabulous Grade II-listed building to help inform and educate people about Freemasonry. By the time you read this, having worked closely with the Museum of Freemasonry, the first members of the public will have undertaken a redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall. It sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year. It helps us launch a new approach as to how we define and regard ourselves. We are less apologetic for the misguided views of others, and instead talk about the positives of membership, both in terms of the benefits for the individual member and for society at large. What other organisation can boast charitable donations of more than £45 million a year? What other boasts an annual delivery of over five million hours of unpaid community and voluntary service? What other seeks to make people better individuals through philosophical and philanthropic engagement?
Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members and one that we should all be proud of: that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. Our purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous. It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges, Freemasonry teaches us to chip away at our inadequacies, revealing the better person we can be, one more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn. Of course, all Freemasons will know and appreciate these points, but it is now our aim and intention to share these messages with the public, starting with the new public tour and closely followed by other supportive material.
We have an amazing history, often at the forefront of monumental social and economic change, as anyone who has watched the DVD of our Tercentenary celebrations cannot fail to appreciate. We have such a story to tell and intend to be confident and committed when speaking about our many strengths and the reasons why we are just as relevant today as we have been in decades and centuries past. Watch this space, and let us know how you think we are doing!
In other developments, we intend to produce, for the first time in our history, an annual report explaining to you, our membership, how your fees and dues are spent, while explaining to both you and the public what it is that UGLE does and how well we do it. Many of you will be involved in helping us collate the information we need, so look out for this over the coming months as we work towards a publication date of March 2020.
‘Project Hermes’ is in full swing, looking at how we can update our processes to modernise the management of our membership, ensuring that some of the more laborious and outdated demands placed upon Lodge and Provincial Secretaries concerning collecting data, paying dues and keeping up-to-date records are simplified and made more accessible to those who need to see, use and work with them. We hope to be able to have a much fuller article explaining this in our next edition.
In short, as ever, there is plenty going on to keep us all busy, but if you find yourself in London with an hour or so to spare, please do book into our new tour via the Museum of Freemasonry website – we can guarantee an enjoyable way to make that all-important daily advancement in Masonic knowledge!
Dr David Staples
‘Our redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year’
The Great War Memorial on Nottingham’s Victoria Embankment, which names 13,482 people from Nottinghamshire who died in the First World War, was opened during a moving ceremony on 28th June 2019 – 100 years to the day since the Treaty of Versailles was signed which formally ended the First World War
The memorial is the first of its kind in the UK, after seven years’ of research went into finding the names of every person from the county who lost their lives during the conflict.
A mere 24 hours after unveiling the Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall in London, UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, arrived at the Victoria Embankment along with invited guests. The service started at 10am and was followed by the dedication, the Act of Remembrance, the Last Post, HRH Duke of Kent laying the first wreath, the Act of Commitment and the National Anthem. The Grand Master then inspected the memorial and met the families present before proceedings came to an end at 11.30am.
The memorial is a tribute to all the people from Nottinghamshire who lost their lives in the 1914-18 conflict, including civilian casualties, nurses, two people killed in a Zeppelin air raid in September 1916 and the victims of the Chilwell shell filling factory explosion of July 1918.
Families of those who died in the Great War attended the unveiling and dedication service, together with Philip Marshall, Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire Freemasons, Nottinghamshire’s Lord Lieutenant Sir John Peace, Nottingham City Council Leader David Mellen, Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Cllr Kay Cutts MBE, civic heads, the district and borough council leaders, the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police Craig Guildford, the Chief Fire Officer John Buckley and local MPs.
Among the regiments taking part in the service were members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron RAF, members of the 4th Battalion Mercian Regiment, including regimental mascot Private Derby and members of HMS Sherwood. Former and current officers from Nottinghamshire Police and Royal British Legion standard bearers were also in attendance.
The £395,000 memorial has been constructed on the Victoria Embankment next to the memorial built between 1923 and 1927 on land bequeathed in perpetuity by Jesse Boot. It was principally funded by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, along with the seven district councils and generous corporate and private donations.
Also of note is the fact that the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire VC memorial, which has resided at the Nottingham Castle since its unveiling on 7th May 2010, has been moved to the site to join the two Great War memorials. During the Great War of 1914 to 1919, 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded, in total six Nottingham-born war heroes were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award of the British honours system.
In honour of all English Freemasons awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross (VC), the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE) Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, unveiled a unique Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall on 27th June 2019
The Remembrance Stone was commissioned in 2016 by Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and since its introduction in 1856, more than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients.
The Remembrance Stone was carved by Emily Draper, who was Worcester Cathedral’s first female Stonemason apprentice, having been sponsored by local Freemasons. During the preparation stage of the stone, Emily also found out that her Great Uncle was a Freemason VC recipient.
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, followed by readings from Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire (My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling) and Brigadier Peter Sharpe, President of the Circuit of Service Lodges (The Soldier by Rupert Chawner Brooke).
Over 130 guests were in attendance including serving military personnel, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and Sea Cadets, as well as Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of his unit – Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – while serving in Iraq in 2004. Johnson is also a Freemason and a member of Queensman Lodge No. 2694 in London.
Music was provided by Jon Yates from the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, who performed the ‘Last Post’, a minute’s silence and the ‘Reveille’.
This was proceeded by the grand Unveiling and Dedication of the Remembrance Stone by The Duke of Kent, as a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of those Freemasons awarded the VC. The Duke of Kent also presented Emily with a stone carving toolset to aid her future projects.
The event was concluded with a speech by Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, said: “It’s been a huge honour to mark the dedication of this wonderful Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone and another significant milestone in our longstanding history.
“It is even more remarkable in the context that 14% of all recipients of the Victoria Cross have been Freemasons and I can think of no more fitting home than for it to be placed here at Freemasons’ Hall – a memorial to the thousands of English Freemasons who lost their lives during the Great War.”
Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone
27 June 2019
Unveiling and Dedication, The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent
Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren,
It is an enormous pleasure for me to be here today to unveil the Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall.
One of the oldest social and charitable organisations in the world, Freemasonry’s roots lie in the traditions of the medieval stonemasons who built our castles and cathedrals. Which is why it is so fitting that this stone – commissioned by Granville Angell, Past Assistant Grand Sword Bearer – has been carved by Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason, Emily Draper. She beat forty-five other applicants to win this apprenticeship, which was jointly funded by the Worcestershire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Emily’s grandfather was a Freemason at a Lodge in Devon, whilst her Great Uncle was one of the Freemason Victoria Cross recipients we are honouring here today. I would like to express our thanks to Emily for all her dedication and hard work that went into creating the Remembrance Stone.
We would also like to show our appreciation of the expertise that went into producing this work by presenting you with this set of stonemasons’ tools to aid you in your future projects.
I have recently returned from visiting my cousin, Princess Elisabeth, in Belgrade. Whilst there I attended the 100th Anniversary gala for the foundation of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia – a region whose troubled legacy extends back through the centuries, as well as our own military involvement in the recent past.
Serbs, Croats and Slovenians were well represented and this is just one example of how Freemasonry brings peoples together and provides a safe space for those with very different outlooks to support and learn from each other.
Having served in the Armed Forces for more than 20 years I understand the common values shared by Freemasonry and the Services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition.
It is an extraordinary fact that 14% of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons.
It is now time to unveil this splendid stone. It will stand as a tangible reminder of those Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross. I am sure you will agree that this Remembrance Stone is a fitting tribute to their service and sacrifice.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) welcomed members from across the globe to join the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, and Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, for this year’s Craft and Royal Arch Annual Investitures at Freemasons' Hall
Investiture week saw the District Support Team of Lister Park and Louise Watts taking the opportunity to organise a number of District-centric events. On 24th April 2019, new District Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Masters were given a guided tour of Freemasons’ Hall, followed by a presentation and luncheon with the Chief Operating Officer of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Les Hutchinson, and Senior Grant Officers.
A Workshop for District Grand Secretaries filled the afternoon before the day was concluded by a Fellowship Gathering for all District members, with their wives and significant others, in the Vestibules area outside the Grand Temple. It was a relaxed and informal evening hosted by Dr Jim Daniel, UGLE’s Past Grand Secretary, who gave a short and amusing welcome speech, alongside Willie Shackell CBE, another Past Grand Secretary, the Rt Hon Lord Wigram, Past Senior Grand Warden, and Bruce Clitherow, Past Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies.
Following the Royal Arch festivities on 25th April 2019, District Grand Masters and their guests were then invited to join the Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, for a relaxed drinks evening.
As a result of an organisational restructure at UGLE in January 2019, the department for Member Services, under the Directorship of Prity Lad, has a renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging with its existing membership.
Comprised of three key functions, the Registration Department, District Support and External Relations, they are committed to a common goal of making UGLE an organisation that is fit for purpose and an efficient headquarters for its members.
Prity Lad, UGLE’s Director of Member Services, said: ‘Being our first opportunity this year to welcome and entertain our District guests, these events were hugely important to us. It is our commitment to work in partnership with the Districts more closely than ever by creating a function of expertise, training and events and to support and raise the profile of the charitable work which our Districts are engaged in.
‘It was a huge honour for me to meet with many of those who attended and I look forward to working together over the next coming months. I would also like to give grateful thanks to Jim, Willie, Lord Wigram and Bruce for supporting this inaugural event, which we intend to be the first of many.’
UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, was at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford to open the Stokes Centre for Urology on 5 March 2019
This new NHS centre of excellence was jointly funded by The Prostate Project and Royal Surrey County Hospital following 10 years of fundraising.
Colin Stokes launched the Prostate Project in 1998 to raise £250,000 for a scanner, but went on to raise over £8 million. In recognition of the charity’s vital role, the centre has been named after its founder.
While the building has patient access at its core, The Duke of Kent also saw how it is the culmination of the most significant investments in urological services in the UK for over a decade. It is the largest centre for brachytherapy in Europe and third in the world.
The Prostate Project raised £2.85 million of the £5.9 million needed to build the new centre. In the foyer of the centre there is a plaque listing the Prostate Project’s Hall of Fame, recognising all donors who have contributed £3,000 or more and buy-a-brick donors are recognised in reception.
The Hall of Fame is testimony to the efforts of:
- The Provincial Grand Lodge and Chapter of Surrey who achieved a Platinum Award;
- Astolat Lodge No. 5848, who meet in Guildford, Surrey, qualified for a Silver Award;
- Castle Keep Lodge No. 6446, who meet in Godalming, Surrey, qualified for a Bronze Award; and
- Surrey Provincial Lodge of Mark Master Masons, who qualified for a Bronze Award.
During the visit, The Duke of Kent met several Surrey Freemasons who supported the Prostate Project by contributing over £70,000.
Those present included Surrey’s Deputy Provincial Grand Master Richard Wileman, who was supported by Surrey Freemason Vic Simmons, who is also an Ambassador and Trustee of The Prostate Project, and Peter Wood, the Master and Charity Steward of Astolat Lodge.
The event took place in Spalding, where the Duke had a variety of other engagements during the day. It was hosted by Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master David Wheeler and had been arranged at the Masonic Hall at the request of the Lord Lieutenant of the county.
Also in attendance was the President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Richard Hone, who was pleased to accept the donation of £100,000 for the MCF, which marked the start of Lincolnshire’s 2025 Festival.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
13 March 2019
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 December 2018 were confirmed.
Election of the Grand Master
HRH The Duke of Kent was re-elected as Grand Master.
Grand Lodge Register 2009-2018
The tables below show the number of Lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.
Charges for warrants
In accordance with the provisions of Rule 270A, Book of Constitutions, the Board has considered the costs of preparing the actual documents specified in this Rule and recommends that for the year commencing 1 April 2019 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be as follows:
Installed Masters' Lodges
In December 2012 the wording of Rules 269 and 271 in relation to the definition of an Installed Masters’ Lodge was amended to include those Installed Masters’ Lodges serving a group of Lodges with a common affiliation. Because of the way the amendment was framed, the last sentence of each Rule was inadvertently omitted in the next and all subsequent reprints of the Book of Constitutions.
The Board, having considered the matter, is of the view that for the avoidance of doubt the lost wording should be restored by way of a formal amendment to the two Rules, and that for ease of reference the full wording of each Rule should be printed in the Paper of Business.
The Board has received a report that Cleddau Lodge, No. 6952 has resolved to surrender its Warrant in order to amalgamate with Cambrian Lodge, No. 464 (West Wales).
The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodge be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamation.
Erasure of lodges
The Board has received a report that 13 Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:
Ellesmere Lodge, No. 3068 (West Lancashire), Hillingdon Lodge, No. 3174 (Middlesex), Ashfield Lodge, No. 4129 (Cheshire), Meridian Lodge, No. 5060 (Cheshire), Hadrian Lodge, No. 5216 (Cumberland and Westmorland), Byerley Lodge, No. 7853 (Durham), Lodge of Friendship, No. 7902 (Worcestershire), Ancient of Days Lodge, No. 9230 (West Kent), Caer Estyn Lodge, No. 9252 (North Wales), Southwood Lodge, No. 9293 (West Kent), Service above Self Lodge, No. 9537 (Durham), Black Country Heritage Lodge, No. 9702 (Staffordshire), and Essex Millennium Lodge, No. 9729 (Essex)
Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board is satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore has no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Amendments to the Book of Constitutions
For the next Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge, the President of the Board of General Purposes to move:
a. That Rule 269 be amended to read:
“269. There shall be payable to the Fund of General Purposes annual dues inrespect of each of its members by every Lodge
(i) in England and Wales that isunattached
(ii) in a Metropolitan Area or a Province
(iii) in a District and
(iv) abroad not in a District of such respective amounts as shall be fixed for each calendar year by resolution of the Grand Lodge in the preceding June.
Provided that any Lodge in a Metropolitan Area, Province, District or Group that is from time to time determined by the Board of General Purposes to be a Lodge the membership of which is restricted to Brethren who are Installed Masters but which is otherwise open without further restriction to all Brethren either within the relevant Metropolitan Area, Province, District or Group, or within a group of Lodges linked together by a common purpose or affiliation, shall pay annual dues in respect of those Brethren only who are not members of any other Lodge, and in the case of a Brother who is a member only of one or more such Lodges restricted to Installed Masters the Lodge of which he has been longest a member shall alone pay annual dues in respect of him. Such a Brother shall pay, by way of annual subscription, an additional amount equal to the dues payable in respect of him by such Lodge, but such additional amount shall be disregarded in determining for the purposes of Rule 145 whether all the members of the Lodge entitled to the same privileges pay the same subscription.”
b. That Rule 271 be amended to read:
“271. There shall be payable to The Masonic Charitable Foundation by every Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province or in England and Wales that is unattached in respect of each of its members annual contributions of not less than such amount as shall be fixed for each calendar year by resolution of the Grand Lodge in the preceding June. (No payment is due in respect of members of Lodges Overseas).
Provided that any Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or Province that is from time to time determined by the Board of General Purposes to be a Lodge the membership of which is restricted to Brethren who are Installed Masters but which is otherwise open without further restriction to all Brethren either within the relevant Metropolitan Area or Province, or within a group of Lodges linked together by a common purpose or affiliation, shall pay annual contributions in respect of those Brethren only who are not members of anyother Lodge, and in the case of a Brother who is a member only of one or more such Lodges restricted to Installed Masters the Lodge of which he has been longest a member shall alone pay the annual contribution in respect of him. Such a Brother shall pay, by way of annual subscription, a further additional amount equal to the annual contribution payable in respect of him by such Lodge, but such additional amount shall be disregarded in determining for thepurposes of Rule 145 whether all the members of the Lodge entitled to the same privileges pay the same subscription.”
Presentatation to Grand Lodge
A talk on A year in the life of the Grand Superintendent of Works by RW Bro John Pagella, PJGW, Grand Superintendent of Works.
List of new lodges
List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by The MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:
14 November 2018
9972 Hinckley Lodge of Installed Masters, Hinckley, Leicestershire and Rutland
9973 Epicurean Lodge, Kingston, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
9974 Ruck and Maul Lodge, Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire
12 December 2018
9975 Fidelity Lodge, Avellaneda, South America, Southern Division
9976 Ferring Contemporary Lodge, Worthing, Sussex
9977 Aubrey Shervington Jacobs Lodge, Kingston, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 June 2019. Subsequent Communications will be held on 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019, 11 March 2020 and 10 June 2020.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 24 April 2019), and admission is by ticket only.
Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.
Presenting our past
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s Director, Vicky Carroll, tells Edwin Smith about some of the most important – and suprising – objects in UGLE’s collection, and explains how she’s taking them to a wider audience
Having worked at some of the best-known museums in the country, Vicky Carroll took up the role of Director of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry in November 2017. She admits that her target – of doubling the Museum’s audience within five years – is ‘ambitious’, but Carroll’s credentials suggest that she’s the right person for the job. Having studied natural sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, she stayed on to complete a Masters and then a PhD in cultural history before beginning her career at the prestigious V&A Museum in London. She went on to work at the Science Museum, the William Morris Gallery, Keats House in Hampstead and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Her passion, she says, is to give impressive collections the audience they deserve. ‘It’s seizing those opportunities to make stories and heritage more widely accessible, so that more people can benefit from them and enjoy them in a richer, deeper way.’
What was it about the role at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry that appealed to you?
When I first found out about the job, I didn’t actually know a huge amount about Freemasonry or the Museum itself. But the subject was intriguing and I wanted to find out more. I think that’s typical of a lot of people: they might not really know much about Freemasonry, but there’s a mystery there which makes it appealing. I think having that public curiosity is always a great starting place for a museum.
What did you make of the Museum on your first visit?
I was really struck by the quality of the collections; not just the Museum collection, but the Library and the archive as well. The richness and beauty of the objects was compelling. You can see why it’s been named as one of just 149 ‘designated collections’ by the Arts Council of England. [These are exceptional collections that ‘deepen our understanding of the world and what it means to be human’.] The combination of the public interest in the topic and the strength of the collection meant that there was a huge opportunity to engage a much wider audience – with the collection, with the stories, with the history of Freemasonry.
‘A lot of people don’t know much about Freemasonry, but it has a mystery which makes it appealing. I think that having that public curiosity is a great starting place’
Can you talk about the standout objects in the Museum?
We have documents showing the foundations of Freemasonry. They’re very important from a historical perspective. On display is a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions from 1723. It’s the first time that what it meant to be a Freemason was officially recorded. Even older are the Old Charges. These are rule books for stonemasonry and go back to the 1500s. There is also the Articles of Union, the deed marking the unification of the Antients and the Moderns Grand Lodges in 1813.
We’ve got Winston Churchill’s apron, along with objects associated with royalty – as there have been so many royal Freemasons. An exhibit you can’t miss on entering the Museum is the huge gilded Grand Master’s throne made for the Prince Regent, who later became George IV. But just as important are the humbler objects with stories to tell. We have masonic jewels made from scrap materials by prisoners of war. And our ‘Suitcase Stories’ display explores how Freemasonry has shaped the lives of individuals from different walks of life.
Have you discovered anything about Freemasonry that has surprised you since you started the role?
I didn’t realise that there were – and are – female Freemasons. I was particularly struck by a display of mid-20th-century jewels from the Women’s Grand Lodge of Germany. They’re decorated with New Age symbolism and the craftsmanship is stunning.
What do you want visitors to take away when they leave?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry. Many people simply don’t know what it is. We want to help our visitors gain a clearer understanding of Freemasonry’s origins, traditions and values, and an insight into what Freemasonry has meant for individuals and our society up to the present day. For members, the Museum is a great way to show family and friends what Freemasonry is all about.
What attracted you to a career in museums in the first place?
It was something I became interested in whilst I was doing my PhD, when I was volunteering in various museums in Cambridge. One of the things that attracted me to it was the ability to reach a broad and diverse public audience and engage them with arts and heritage. Academic research is immensely valuable, but it has more of a niche audience. Whereas I was interested in creating things that had a wider public appeal.
‘For our special exhibitions, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly’
How do you give exhibitions as wide an appeal as possible?
It’s often just thinking about the subject from the audience’s point of view. What reference points might that audience have that are relevant? How does the topic relate to something they already know about? Even if someone doesn’t know a lot about Freemasonry, they might know about a particular period in time, or there might be someone they’ve heard of. Also, people like to hear stories about people. More traditional museum displays might tell you about an object: what it’s made of, when it was made and so on. But often what people find engaging is who might have used it and what it might have meant to that person. And Freemasonry is great for that. It’s all about personal experience and relationships – not just physical, tangible things.
How do you plan to double the audience in five years?
Our exhibitions and permanent displays must meet the needs of the audience, while raising our public profile. For one of our current special exhibitions, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly. We’ve expanded our social media and have an e-newsletter, which people can sign up to on our website. We’re developing a new visual identity and, later this year, will launch a new website.
What’s next for the Museum?
Our exhibition programme is obviously key in attracting more Freemasons as well as members of the public to come and visit. Our newest exhibition is called Decoded: Freemasonry’s Illustrated Rulebooks. It unlocks the early history of Freemasonry through the illustrations at the front of the Constitutions. These ‘frontispieces’ tried to sum up what Freemasonry meant and its place in the world. You can see how, at various times in its early history, Freemasonry was being adapted to the local and historical situations.
Anything else to look out for?
We’re a museum, but it’s important to remember that we also have a library and an archive, so we’re an amazing resource for members who are writing lodge histories, doing preparation for a visit overseas, or researching their own family history. We’re also encouraging more students and academics to use our collection, hosting more public events, and soon we will be expanding our educational work and collaborating with artists to interpret the collection. It’s a really exciting time.
For more details, visit www.freemasonry.london.museum